On the first day of Christmas, more bishops will be thinking about global warming than adultery, or so a survey by the Church of England General Synod reported in January … Strange, then, that we hear so little from the Church about the desecration of God's earth. Perhaps your parish priest needs prompting?
Jonathon Porritt, Country Living,
Priest: With sorrow for misusing and abusing the beauty and resources of the earth, we pray to the Lord.
All: Lord have mercy.
From the Litany of Contrition at a Catholic church in Sussex, December 1996
To build a roadway or a pavement or a house or a skyscraper you have to scrape away topsoil. This stuff is alive. Just a pinch, just a crumb of soil is home to 30,000 protozoa, 50,000 algae, 400,000 fungi and billions of bacteria. Under a square metre of pasture you would find some 50,000 small earthworms, 50,000 insects and mites, and about 12 million roundworms. Altogether, in a hectare of soil, you could expect there to be a tonne of earthworms, a tonne of arthropods, 150 kilograms of protozoa, 150 kg of algae, 1700 kg of bacteria and 2700 kg – 2.7 tonnes – of fungi. Such creatures 'fix' nitrogen so plants can grow. They decompose plants so that other plants can recycle and replace them. Without them there would be no plants at all, without plants there would be no oxygen, and without oxygen there would be no animal life of any kind, including human. It takes between two hundred and a thousand years to form even a few centimetres of top-soil. Even with good farming practices, it is eroded ten to twenty times faster than it is formed. A bulldozer can scrape the lot away in minutes. So anyone who stops a road from being made is a friend of the Earth.
LRB 8 May 1997 | PDF Download